After two long weeks of sessions on international development and Spanish language, we are ready (well, as ready as we will be) to enter the field, working directly in the communities. As we travel around the beautiful country of Ecuador, we will learn to work in teams while being tested by our environment. Adaptability is a must, and oftentimes even the most well planned itinerary is not infallible. These two weeks of preparation have felt like a wealth of preparation, but I am sure that we will never be completely prepared for our experiences in the field if we only sit in a classroom.
While in the field, our work will be comprised primarily of three different types of projects:
- Village Campaigns
The twenty interns have been separated into four groups of five to facilitate the work that we do throughout the remaining six weeks. Thus, ten students respectively will travel to each location in the North and South. The largest component on the program is the village campaign, in which we will work with asesores comunitarias (“community consultants”) to provide rural communities with access to basic goods and health products. Our products include eyeglasses, sunglasses, water filters, solar powered flashlights and panels, and seed packets.
The most unique aspect of our program is the model that we implement, the MicroConsignment Model, which focuses on the relationship with the asesores to create a lasting impact. Certain community members (usually women with little to no other source of income) become asesores after a long training process that may take anywhere between six months to a year. Afterwards, we continue a working relationship to provide products to our asesores, allowing them to sell the products on consignment to effectively make an income with greatly reduced risk of failure. And although all of our asesores have different personalities and styles of working, every single one is deeply invested in helping the family and the community.
- Priority Projects
Another purpose of the smaller groups is to facilitate priority projects, which we will work on for the rest of the program. My group is called Initiativa, or “Initiative,” and will be focusing on two projects: redesigning the water filters that are sold at community campaigns to reduce total cost, and designing an effective workshop on saving and budgeting for rural communities.
- Consulting Projects
Throughout our work, we will also visit various organizations and microenterprises to understand their work and offer our student consulting services. This work will vary from small women’s community groups to larger, more established businesses. This week, we plan to consult with the women’s group in Pulinguí to create all-natural shampoos and conduct a cost analysis on the profit potentials for their new line of product.
Of course, these three categories are only a few among all of the different projects and works that we will be diving into once in the field. With that, another exciting adventure begins today… Wish me luck!